The University of Michigan has done away with definitions of “harassment” and “bullying” and dismantled its Bias Response Teams in order to end a lawsuit alleging First Amendment violations.
“The University will not reinstate the removed definitions,” reads the settlement agreement between University of Michigan’s top attorney, Timothy Lynch, and an attorney for Speech First, a nonprofit that advocates for First Amendment rights on campuses.
The settlement agreement was released Monday.
University officials have posted new definitions of the words to the school’s website, which comply with state law. The university also will not reinstate its Bias Response Team and continue operating the newly enshrined Campus Climate Support.
A federal judge last month found university’s Bias Response Teams quelled speech on campus with implicit threats of punishment.
These Campus Climate Support teams, which have been operating since the new school year, ensure appropriate university resources are directed toward any student, staff or faculty harmed or negatively impacted by a “campus climate concern,” according to the settlement agreement.
Speech First noted in the settlement agreement they could still sue over the CCS. “[W]e have reserved our rights to challenge the Campus Climate Support program in the future should the program ever be used to chill students’ speech,” said Nicole Neily, president of Speech First.
In 2018, Speech First sued the University, alleging that students’ expression on topics from gun rights to illegal immigration to gender identity had been silenced.
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